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See The Amazing Collection Of Raffles

1/29/2019 3:18:22 PM
written By : Team India Se Print

Step into the world of Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern Singapore, see the things he collected. The Raffles exhibition, opening at the Asian Civilisations Museum on February 1 to mark the bicentennial of the founding of modern Singapore, showcases a fascinating collection of art and mementos Raffles took back with him to England. Co-curated by the British museum, the exhibition Raffles in Southeast Asia: Revisiting the Scholar and the Statesman, includes objects donated by Lady Raffles and other family members.

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The dazzling collection makes you wonder if “globalisation” is a buzzword for what was already happening when Raffles arrived in Singapore 200 years ago. An exquisite cotton textile fabric depicting Chinese or Japanese ladies turns out to be from the Coromandel coast in India. Delicate porcelain plates depicting Bacchus and the baptism of Jesus turn out to be from China. Also on display is an array of Javanese art collected by Raffles.

Raffles, it should be remembered, spent far more time in what’s now Indonesia than in Singapore, which he only visited thrice – twice in 1819 and for the last time from October 1822 till the middle of 1823. He was the Lieutenant-Governor of the Dutch East Indies when it was under British rule from 1811 till 1816.

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The exhibition features masks, puppets, batik fabrics, paintings and manuscripts he collected there.

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Of special interest is a beautifully illustrated letter sent by Sultan Mahmud Syah of Lingga agreeing to send Raffles an armed warship to take part in the British invasion of Java in 1811. Visitors can also see a painting of the house where Raffles lived when he was Lieutenant-Governor of Bencoolen.

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Raffles was also a naturalist, but he could be petty, too, as visitors to the exhibition will find. There’s a painting of a tapir by a Chinese artist. The accompanying text reveals the rivalry between Raffles and Major William Farquhar, Singapore’s first Resident, who was left in charge of the island by Raffles. When he heard Farquhar had written a report on tapir, he asked the editor of the journal not to publish it but use his instead. Farquhar’s manuscript was, nevertheless, published in 1820.

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“Every object tells a story,” said British Museum Chairman Sir Richard Lambert. “For the first time, this exhibition brings together objects collected by Sir Stamford Raffles from private and public collections from across the world. We are offered a new insight into the very complex history of Java and the Malay world, and invite visitors to come and make up their own minds about this complex character.”

Asian Civilisations Museum director Kennie Ting said: “It might be interesting for visitors to note that this exhibition assesses Raffles from many angles. In doing so, ultimately it allows them to decide for themselves who and what Raffles represents.”

The exhibition, open from 10 am till 7 pm daily and extended till 9 pm on Fridays, will run till April 28. Admission is free for students and seniors, $12 for other local visitors and $20 for foreigners but $15 for foreign students and seniors. There will also be talks and special tours. For more information, visit the museum website at

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